Leaving a cult can be a harrowing experience. When you’ve been cut off from the real world, you may run into lots of logistical and conceptual problems that make the outside harder to navigate. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are counting on your lack of experience with the outside world to send you running back to them.
But you don’t need them in your life. There are lots of great resources out there that can offer you help leaving a cult. Today, we’re going to talk about Recovering from Religion and what they have to offer.
What Is Recovering from Religion?
Recovering From Religion (RFR) is a support group and resource organization for people who have left religion. They offer peer support, online and in person support groups, and have a blog and a podcast where people just like you can share their stories and truths as they recover from religious control.
RFR was founded in 2009 to help people with the emotional and logistical impacts of leaving religion. By 2012, there were over 100 local RFR chapters all throughout the United States.
What Does Recovering from Religion Do?
RFR has several support options for people who have left their faith, or who want to leave. One of their biggest projects is their hotline. This hotline, which can be reached in the US and Canada at 84-I-Doubt-It (844-368-2848), is staffed by trained volunteers and allows you to connect with people who are there to support you through the emotional and interpersonal challenges of leaving the cult.
They also have a chat and web call service, if the phone isn’t an option. (This can be very helpful for people who aren’t on the outside yet and need to keep any hotline calling off of their phone activity.)
Another important project that RFR maintains is the Secular Therapy Project. This is a database of secular therapists that anybody can access. The Secular Therapy Project helps connect people with therapists who won’t put any religious pressure on them and who are familiar with the challenges of leaving religion.
RFR also plans national meetings, and local chapters have meetings both in person and online. They hold a bi-monthly meeting open to anyone worldwide on the first Sunday of the month at 6:00 PM CST and the third Saturday of the month at 9:00 AM CST. They also have weekly talks (more on those in a minute), and have a resource library with information about different faiths as well as various theological and philosophical ideas, challenges such as shunning and finding community, mental health resources, and many other topics.
How Can Recovering from Religion Help Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses?
One of my favorite resources that RFR offers is their weekly talks. These talks are a great way to find a community and have your questions answered in a non judgemental environment. Each week, FRF brings in guest speakers to discuss topics like mental health, exploring your beliefs, and recovering from religion. The audience question and answer session, as well as audience discussions, are a great way to explore your personal journey and feelings about leaving the organization.
Isolation is a huge problem when you’re no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The organization does everything it can to prevent you from having worldly friends, and immediately isolates you through shunning when you leave. When everybody you know cuts contact with you, it can be extremely lonely and difficult. This is one of the things that makes the weekly talks so great. Each one doesn’t just provide support and information about leaving; the audience is made up of people just like you. It’s a great place to find new people to talk to and a new community. You can make genuine connections during these conversations with people who truly understand what you’re going through.
Additionally, RFR has a number of resources about ExJWs and leaving the faith. These include interviews, articles, self-help guides, and more. They have resources for victims of shunning and abuse, as well as resources for those coming out as LGBTQ+, for people who need help with exit strategies, and more. Basically, if you’re having trouble leaving the organization or dealing with the religious trauma from your time on the inside, there are resources for you.
Another thing that makes RFR valuable for ExJWs is that they are uniquely positioned as a resource for ex-cult members. While all religions exert control over their members, cults like the JWs are high-control groups that tightly control their members’ thoughts and access to the outside world. RFR’s leadership includes at least one prominent ex-cult member: Nathan Phelps, a former member of the highly destructive Westboro Baptist Church, is an emeritus board member. Director Darrel Ray is also an ex-fundamentalist and a victim of shunning.
What this means is that RFR is posed to provide immediate emotional support for people who have been shunned– and if you’re an ExJW, that likely applies to you. This is an organization that truly knows and understands the value of community and the importance of a support system. Their numerous opportunities for peer connection are truly valuable for somebody seeking support.
This is the 1st post in our resource series. Check back as we add new resources, and check out our Resource Series tag for more information.